Robert Burns Dick was born on 9 May 1868 in Stirling and died on 11 December 1954. He was an architect of substantial influence in the north-east of England, particularly in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. He moved to Newcastle as a child and was later articled to William Lister Newcombe, moving in 1888 to the office of Armstrong and Knowles, where he remained as assistant until 1892. He formed a partnership with Charles Thomas Marshall in 1895 which was dissolved in 1897, after which he entered into practice on his own and later into partnership with James Thoburn Cackett on 5 July 1899. His partnership with Cackett yielded buildings such as the distinctly Edwardian Students' Union building for what was to become Newcastle University, and Spanish City at Whitley Bay.
On 30 August 1923, Cackett and Burns Dick joined with Norman McKellar to form Cackett, Burns Dick and McKellar. The great office buildings around Carliol Square in Newcastle are Cackett, Burns Dick and Mackellar creations, as is the Church of the Divine Unity in Ellison Place. Amongst other distinguished buildings designed by Burns Dick were Berwick Police Station, opened in May 1901, the Laing Art Gallery in 1904 and the County Hall extension development, opened in October 1934. He also designed and built well over one hundred houses between 1890 and 1934, which include his home Millmount in Fenham, 1908, and later the famous Wedge in Moorside North, designed for his brother.
On 8 January 1906 Burns Dick was admitted as a fellow to the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was a good speaker and travelled and lectured all over the world. He used his roles as president of the Northern Architectural Association (1914-18) and as founder member of the Northumberland and Newcastle society in 1924 to improve the beauty, health and amenities of the city. He went to endless trouble preparing schemes for a 'green belt' for the city with new streets, and he also advocated alternative sites for the much debated problem of relocation of the Newcastle Town Hall. His 'great plan' for the redevelopment of Newcastle never came to fruition and only the Pilgrim Street development and the entrances to the Tyne Bridge ever got off the drawing board. This limited success, together with constantly living in the shadow of renowned architects Grainger, Dobson and Clayton, was clearly a source of frustration to him.